Ken Ploughshares was a workingman, always had been and always would be. He wasn’t some smart aleck like that college boy the big bosses had just hired on as a part-timer, no sir. He knew his job, which was stocking produce, and he performed it about as well as anyone who refused to do more than the bare minimum.
A few weeks before Christmas, he and the college boy were tasked with dragging a large holiday display out of a storage closet in the back of the grocery store.
“I think we’re going to have to disassemble it to get it through these doors,” the college boy said. “It’s really big.”
Ken, who never wanted to take on additional work, bristled at the thought of following the college boy’s advice. “Ohvuh, you don’t need to tell me how to do my job. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, and I know it’ll fit.”
“My name’s Oscar,” the college boy replied, “and I don’t think there’s any way it will. It’s twice the size of the doorway.”
Oscar, Ohvuh, Otter—what difference did it make? Ken’s mind was occupied with thoughts of his impending smoke break, which might be delayed by several minutes if he had to take apart this display. “We’ll just turn it the other way, then,” he said.
“I don’t think we can do that, because it’s even longer than it is wide. It looks like it separates into four pieces, though,” said the college boy.
Even after a methodical fifteen-year ascension to the top of the union pay scale, Ken believed he wasn’t being paid enough for this kind of stuff. “Kid, you get behind it and push, and I’ll get in front of it and pull,” he said.
The college boy, who was slowly arriving at the realization that he received the same wage for doing bad work as he did for good, assumed a position behind the display.
“Let her rip,” Ken said, pulling with only a fraction of his might. While he sort-of struggled to budge the display, he entertained sweet daydreams of impossible-to-disprove back injuries and substantial worker’s compensation and disability awards.
The pair labored somewhat less than tirelessly for about five minutes, at which point the display had become wedged into the doorway. “I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” said the college boy.
Going anywhere? Who said the display had to go anywhere? Ken had never gone anywhere, and his life had more or less turned out okay. “Well, you keep working at it, Oshuh. I’ve got to go catch a smoke,” he said.
The college boy gave the display another futile shove. “I can’t get through the door, Ken.”
Ken smiled as satisfied a smile as he could muster under the circumstances. This college boy might have thought that he was on the fast track, but it was now clear that even he didn’t have all the answers. “Jeez, kid, just climb over it. Don’t you know anything?”